My Holiday Card to Concurring Opinions Readers


Final Examination
Professor Graham
Holiday 2011 Semester


1. You have three hours to complete the exam,
which consists of a single question.

2. This is a closed-book exam.

3. Assume that the facts as given are true, and take place in the fictitious State of Confusion.

4. Good luck!


On Christmas Eve 2011, Santa Claus landed his sleigh atop the roof of the Adams household. After squeezing down the chimney, he left gifts for the Adams family, ate the milk and cookies that had been left out for him, and then shimmied back up the chimney to the roof.

As Santa prepared to board his sleigh, he slipped and fell on an icy shingle. Santa tumbled down the roof and crashed into the bushes below, hurting his back. Mr. Adams had seen the ice on his roof earlier that day, but decided not to clear it off; the task seemed like a lot of work, it was cold outside, and there was a good football game on TV. As Santa lay injured in the bushes, a partially unwrapped gift—a Chia Pet—inexplicably fell from (or was disgustedly tossed out of) a window at the Adams residence, and clobbered Santa on the head.

The tumult caused Santa’s reindeer to panic and fly off without him. The out-of-control reindeer and sleigh crashed into and pulverized the chimney at the nearby Batista household. Meanwhile, the Chen and Davis children had been “nice” this year, but received no presents due to Santa’s injury and the runaway sleigh. Believing that Santa considered them “naughty,” the Chen and Davis kids suffered serious emotional distress.

Later that night, one of the gifts that Santa had left for the Adams family, a Sniggie® blanket (like a Snuggie, only cheaper), spontaneously burst into flames. The ensuing fire burnt the Adams house down to the ground.

Finally, the events related above caused some scales to topple onto a woman standing at a train station in Brooklyn.

Identify and evaluate the torts implicated by the foregoing facts, taking care to consider, inter alia:

1) Whether Santa is best classified as an invitee, licensee, or trespasser at the Adams household, assuming that the State of Confusion continues to adhere to these categories;

2) Whether the doctrine of res ipsa loquitur applies to the defenestrated Chia Pet;

3) Whether Santa would be liable for the chimney damage in a “fence out” jurisdiction;

4) Whether any duty existed to protect the Chen and Davis children from the harms that they suffered; and

5) Whether Santa can be held strictly liable as a “distributor” of the defective Sniggie® blanket.

Happy Holidays!

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6 Responses

  1. This is awesome! (And it appears much easier than your crim pro final a few years back, though that’s probably because I don’t have to actually take this torts exam.) I bet it’s going to be a really fun test to grade.

  2. Joe says:

    This sounds fun though if Santa Claus did exist (I’m sorry Virginia), there probably would be certain special rules applicable to him that would not fit in general rules of law.

  3. AYY says:

    Santa’s an honored guest, not a mere invitee, so he’s off the hook for any tort on a theory of sovereign immunity.
    Santa doesn’t slip on icy roofs. He deals with them all the time. He didn’t slip. He must have been pushed. But no one sneaks up on Santa, so if he slipped it’s because his milk and cookies must have been spiked. So he’s off the hook on that theory also.
    The doctrine of res ipsa loquitur doesn’t apply to the defenestrated Chia pet because no one knows what defenestrated means, or what a Chia pet is. So Santa can’t recover for that.
    As for the Sniggie blanket, well that’s what they get for spiking Santa’s milk and cookies.

  4. Kyle says:

    @AYY: I don’t know whether to reward you for creativity or punish you for fighting the hypo

  5. Ted Frank says:

    Does “Chia pet” date us? Ouch.

    In any event, the NFL should have reasonably anticipated that the attractive nuisance of its football games would cause viewers to fail to take care in clearing their roofs, so they are clearly liable to Santa, Batista, Chen, Davis, and Mrs. Palsgraf. Punitive damages are not inappropriate.

  6. Benjy Stern says:

    As a person who has to take the bar soon, I think I just crap myself over the idea of taking a law exam for “fun.” I rather go Black Friday shopping in LA: